Review: With Album Number 50, The Queen of Country Still Captivates The Kingdom

Loretta Lynn | Still Woman Enough | (Sony/Legacy)
Four and a half out of Five Stars

It sometimes seems a bit presumptuous for an artist of less than legendary standing to offer a tribute to musical icons that represent the breadth of an entire genre. After all, these undertakings are best delivered from a personal perspective, one that finds those involved somehow connected to the actual source.

So when Loretta Lynn announced that her new album—one accompanied by an auspicious anniversary, no less—is a celebration of the women who helped shaped the trajectory of modern country music, the credence was clearly established at the outset. Given Lynn’s standings in the annals of modern music, and the fact that the aptly-titled Still Woman Enough is, remarkably her 50th album to date (not even including the ten she recorded with her early partner Conway Twitty), any effort at this point could be considered a milestone. Yet, even at age 88, Lynn shows no sign of letting up, and given her prodigious output in recent years, initially kickstarted when Jack White took the helm for her 2004 comeback of sorts, Van Lear Rose, it’s clear there’s no slowdown in sight. 

Like most of her albums since, Still Woman Enough—the title is taken from her 2002 autobiography—is produced by her daughter Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter, offspring of another musical legend, Johnny Cash. As if the occasion wasn’t significant enough, Lynn enlists several other notable women to help share in the celebration through a series of duets —specifically, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Margo Price, and Tanya Tucker, woman who claim special status all on their own.

That said, it’s the song selection that matters most, and indeed, it’s a well chosen one at that. Appropriately, the album begins with a spoken word recitation of Lynn’s signature song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the tune that helped define her to the wider world. Most of of what follows is of a similar stature, covering the wider realms of modern county music—from a wistful version of Stephen Foster’s “Old Kentucky Home” (a song that has added resonance given Lynn’s Kentucky origins) and her covers of Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Family’s “Keep On The Sunny Side” and “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight,” to a take on Hank Williams’ gospel classic “I Saw the Light” as well as several of he own catalog staples—her very first solo single, “Honky Tonk Girl,” her 1971 hit, the Shel Silverstein-penned “One’s On the Way” and other Lynn landmarks, “My Love,” “I Wanna Be Free” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough

Naturally, Lynn can be forgiven for taking that indulgence. After all, her list of accolades could easily fill the trophy cases of at least a dozen other artists, given her four Grammy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, her Presidential Medal of Freedom, her Billboard’s inaugural Women in Music “Legend” Award, her inclusion in both The Country Music Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and her nod as the Country Music Association’s 1972 Entertainer of the Year, which gave her the distinction of being the first woman to win that award. 

Needless to say, Still Woman Enough is all one might expect of a concept collection like this, and it should be obvious at the outset that there’s a remarkable wealth of material to be had here. Fans will, of course, be throughly delighted, as well they should be. And newcomers, if there are any at this point, will marvel at this able expression of country craft and creativity. Suffice it to say, the title says it all.

Photo by David McClister

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